America in the 1850s

The Compromise of 1850

Was there any chance that the Compromise of 1850 could have worked?

No. Northern and Southern persons of good will deceived themselves, hoping that the differences could be papered, or smoothed over. In fact, the difference between two economies—one commercial and the other agricultural—and between two increasingly different societies—one heading in the direction of urban life, the other remaining rural—was difficult enough. Once one added slavery to the mixture, it became far too combustible for any compromise, however well designed, to prevent trouble.

Then, too, there was the matter of the rising slave population. There were, in 1850, about 3.4 million slaves in the United States, as well as about 400,000 free persons of color. If the slave population continued to grow at this rate, the Southern states might one day resemble the sugar-rich islands of Cuba and Jamaica.


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